Americans for the Arts released its second annual National Arts Index scores this week and the findings won’t surprise you: the 2009 Index score of 97.7 is the lowest Index score in the twelve years it measures.

  • The 2009 score represents a drop of 3.6 percentage points from 101.3 in 2008.
  • There were 3,000 new nonprofit arts organizations created during the 2007-09 recession years but attendance at mainstream arts organizations and events continues a long-term decline.
  • In 2008, 41% of nonprofit arts groups reported a deficit to the IRS, up from 36% in 2007.

While our country’s flagging economy has surely presented a number of challenges for the arts, the Index does hit some resonating high notes:

  1. Americans are seeking more personal engagement in the arts. Personal arts creation and volunteerism is growing. The number of Americans who personally participated in an artistic activity increased 5% between 2005 and 2009, while volunteering also jumped 11.6 percent.
  2. The number of artists in the workforce has increased 17% from 1996 to 2009 (1.9 to 2.2 million).
  3. Demand for Arts Education is up. There are more college-bound seniors with 4 years of arts or music and in the past decade college arts degrees conferred annually have risen from 75,000 to 127,000.

What does this mean for your community? Comment below about how you see personal arts creation and volunteerism growing in your community or tell us about arts programs that are innovative in building audience demand. And be sure to visit the National Arts Index page.

3 Responses to “National Arts Index Drops to Lowest Point in Twelve Years, but Signals that Arts Creation and Volunteerism is Up”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, Kelley Padrick, Catherine Brandt, Gary Steuer, Nadine Ishani and others. Nadine Ishani said: RT @Americans4Arts: National Arts Index Drops to Lowest Point in 12 Years but #Arts Creation & Volunteerism is Up […]

  2. Response to point three under “resonating high notes”
    “3. Demand for Arts Education is up. There are more college-bound seniors with 4 years of arts or music and in the past decade college arts degrees conferred annually have risen from 75,000 to 127,000.”

    I see the increase in college arts degrees as a spiraling problem that is further saturating the job market with unemployed arts professionals unable to make a living in their chosen field. Obviously with the decrease in pay from well-paying arts jobs, such as regular performing jobs in companies and symphonies, and the decline the numbers of these jobs due to elimination of tenured performing positions, many artists turn to arts education to make a living. The expansion of college-level arts education enhances the problem: more artists and fewer good jobs for them.

    I believe it is irresponsible of universities to continue to expand arts education programs in light of the current arts jobs economy. Conservatories are pumping out too many grads with false expectations of a satisfying career in the arts, leaving graduates unprepared for the realities of today’s job market.

    What we need is smarter marketing and programming through a team-mentality effort between artistic directors and arts management professionals. Only through a change in attitude about what today’s consumers want and enjoy will we begin to see younger audiences investing their time and money in enjoyment of the arts. Also, let’s be honest with our youth about the realities of working full time as an artist in today’s economy, preferably before they invest in a 4-year conservatory degree.

    My perspective is based upon a 10-year career performing in ROPA symphony orchestras. I currently work in arts management.

    • Randy Cohen says:

      To Christine’s comment . . . I shared the growth-in-college-arts-degree data with a room full of university arts Deans to get their perspective last year. They are seeing a bump in double majors that include the arts (e.g., science and music) as well as a big increase in design degrees. Many of the latter are then off to work in tech fields such as game design. So, all are not necessarily saturating the industries in the way we’d predict.
      Randy Cohen
      VP of Research & Policy
      Americans for the Arts

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